China blocks Amnesty International website

Chinese authorities have once again blocked Amnesty International’s main website inside mainland China.

In a recent effort to clean up “vulgar” internet content, the Chinese authorities have targeted many sites including MSN, Baidu and Google. Since 8 January, 91 websites have been closed, according to state media reports. Other sites recently blocked include the blog portal, Bullog.

“We fear the re-blocking of Amnesty International’s website indicates a widening crackdown, particularly as 2009 will see a number of important commemorations,” said Roseann Rife, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Programme.

This year will see many notable anniversaries in China, including the 50th anniversary of the 1959 uprising in Tibet, the 30th anniversary of the “Democracy Wall” movement, and the 20th anniversary of the crackdown on the 1989 pro-democracy Tiananmen protests. All of these could inspire protests and trigger government crackdowns.

Amnesty International’s website was unblocked in China shortly before the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Other sites unblocked then included some human rights organizations and media outlets, including the BBC Chinese website. At the time, Amnesty International welcomed the move and expressed hope that this signalled a more open attitude toward human rights.

China will soon release its first ever Human Rights Action Plan, which, according to the State Council Information Office, would cover areas such as governance, democracy, rule of law, the rights of women, children and ethnic minorities, and include provisions for human rights education.

Despite this, authorities have targeted websites and blogs that reprint and collect signatures for Charter 08, a petition signed by many well-known academics and human rights activists that proposes a blueprint for fundamental legal and political reform in China.

Amnesty International had recently called for the immediate release of Liu Xiaobo, a signatory of Charter 08, currently under “residential surveillance” in China.

Amnesty International has called upon the Chinese authorities to immediately re-establish access to the organization’s website.